ZARQAWI AGAIN….Jacob Levy gives me an excuse today to blog again about a story that I try to bring up once a month or so. It’s the story of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the terrorist who George Bush says is the “best evidence” of a connection between Iraq and al-Qaeda before the war. Here’s what NBC News reported three months ago:

In June 2002…the Pentagon quickly drafted plans to attack [Zarqawi’s] camp [but]….the plan was debated to death in the National Security Council….The Pentagon drew up a second strike plan, and the White House again killed it….The Pentagon drew up still another attack plan, and for the third time, the National Security Council killed it.

Military officials insist their case for attacking Zarqawi?s operation was airtight, but the administration feared destroying the terrorist camp in Iraq could undercut its case for war against Saddam.

Jacob wanted to know if anyone had ever officially refuted this story, and now reports that two days ago somebody finally did. Condoleezza Rice was on This Week on Sunday and said that “as far as we know, we never had a chance to get Zarqawi.”

But this is hardly satisfactory, is it? What does she mean, “as far as we know”? She’s the National Security Advisor, and she ought to know for a fact whether we ever had a chance to attack the camp ? especially since NBC’s source claims it was “debated to death” three times by the NSC.

Note also that Rice carefully says only that we never had a chance to get Zarqawi, not that there was no feasible plan to take out the camp. But surely the camp, which was allegedly turning out poisons for use in terrorist strikes, would have been well worth taking out even if Zarqawi hadn’t been there?

The real problem here is that NBC’s source is anonymous, which allows Rice to simply brush it off. The only way to get to the bottom of this is for NBC ? or someone else ? to get this source or another one to go on the record. At that point everyone would have to take it seriously.

Unfortunately, there’s no sign that that’s going to happen.

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